The 30 Saudi women selected by the Spanish railway operator Renfe to become train drivers for the Haramain high-speed train, which links the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, will begin their training in the city of Jeddah on March 13.
According to a statement from the Spanish Ministry of Transport, after 1,200 hours of theoretical and practical training, at the end of this year they will become the first women in the history of Saudi Arabia to carry out this profession.
The future train drivers are women between 22 and 30 years old, all of Saudi nationality, and have participated in a selection process that began on January 2.
They have been selected from 28,000 female applicants, of whom approximately half passed preliminary online aptitude tests. In this process, the academic record has been assessed, as well as their level of English language. Other selection tests and personal interviews were also carried out.
The massive response underlines the major transformation of women in the Saudi workforce in a short span of time. It was only in 2018 that women in the deeply conservative kingdom were allowed to drive cars alone.
A year of paid training
After passing the mandatory medical examinations, the 30 selected women will join the facilities that the Mecca Medina High Speed Spanish Consortium has at the Line Operations Center on Sunday (the first working day of the week in Saudi Arabia) March 13 in Jeddah.
The training will be paid and will be given by Renfe staff.
Once the theoretical classes are finished, the real driving training will begin on the high-speed trains that provide commercial service in Saudi Arabia since October 2018. Renfe estimates that the full training period will last just under a year.